Love and marriage. This combination of words comes to my mind as both a statement and a question.
When I originally wrote this blog, Valentine’s Day Weekend 2021, I was enjoying a wonderful beach front view in a condo on Myrtle Beach SC, about 3.5 hours from our home in GA. At that time, since the pandemic, my husband hadn’t had any time way from his job. He was an essential worker and didn’t have the break most others experienced. In fact, his job kicked into overdrive –longer hours and travel restrictions.
Love and Marriage Needs Time
Not having really any time away from the job and no real intentional time for us had weighed heavy on me. I really need that one-on-one time. Quality time together is my love language.
Now, my husband and I do A LOT together per se, to most human standards. We do stuff with and for the children. Also, a substantial bit of our time is spent working together in ministry. But neither of those actually focus on OUR relationship. Those things include us being together…but they focus on other things and other people. And though those two major components of our lives are “good things” and noteworthy…they don’t concentrate directly on our relationship.
Even as good or admirable as spending time focusing on the children and working in ministry may seem to others; our marriage relationship could still succumb to struggle and distance, if we are not intentional or careful. And the truth is, we’ve experienced this in our marriage a few times.
Love and Marriage Interpreted
In the theme song (sung in 1949 by the McGuire Sisters) made popular from the sitcom, Love and Marriage, the lyrics suggest that love and marriage CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be separated. The song says, “You can’t have one without the other.” Simply meaning, love and marriage are synonymous with each other, or contingent on the other.
Now, this song was from 1949; and those were definitely the sentiments of the time. They clarify it in the lyrics.
But do people still believe this is true today? Love AND Marriage?!
The point could be argued, because there can most definitely be love without marriage… and there can also be marriage with no love. In fact, there are people who claim to love each other but see no need to get married. Likewise, many married couples would admit to
falling out of love (and definitely out of like) with each other periodically throughout their marriage.
My husband and I have had our moments; but we had to learn…
The Chaplain on Love and Marriage
I recall once when I was in the military, I was out-processing an Army Chaplain…an older gentleman…very mature and distinctive. For whatever reason I had to have his date of marriage. When he shared it, it was a date that shocked me. He had been with his wife just about as long as he had been alive.
At this time my husband and I were still very new to our marriage and were in the struggle to say the least. I wanted to know this chaplain’s secret to longevity. Was it their strong prayer life and their commitment to ministry? Cause if it was the case, maybe my husband and I would stand a chance.
Was it their trust and loyalty to each other? Or was it the love and infatuation? Was the chaplain still as in love and enamored by his wife as the day he first saw her?
Oh! It had to be a great love story. It just had to be.
The Chaplain’s Secret to Love
As much as I was prepared to take mental notes and be inspired by what he was about to share…I was shocked when he gave his answer.
He looked at me and said…”Therapy and regular marriage retreats.”
Where is the happily ever after?
The love story?
The Chaplain’s Secret to Marriage
The chaplain said, “My wife and I, though in ministry, are like any other couple. We married young. Had children young. And we have had our share of struggles. We’ve experienced infidelity. Major problems with our children. Setbacks. And we’ve fallen out of love a few times.”
“We’re DOOMED!” I thought to myself.
The chaplain went on to say the key to staying together was: being committed to the institution of marriage; working through difficulties; and figuring out what works for the betterment of the marriage. Not the individuals…the marriage.
He shared that he and his wife had participated in therapy as a couple and as individuals to keep themselves in balance. Referring to the demands of ministry, he voiced how simple it could be to take on the affairs and issues of others and fail to deal with your own.
Well that doesn’t just happen in ministry. That can happen to anyone. It’s easier to help other people than it is to help ourselves.
The chaplain plainly said, “It can only go for so long until…those giving counsel become.. those needing counsel.”
He further explained that he and his wife regularly and actively participated in marriage retreats to help them rekindle their fire and passion for each other…because couples can from time to time lose the love flames they once had for each other; fanning flames of passion towards other things, people and hobbies. Then, he said firmly, “But, if the couple respects the institution of marriage and are committed to each other (and the process), continued revitalization is possible.”
This floored me. Not the answer I was expecting; but his answer became the answer I needed AND one I would refer back to often throughout my marriage.
Trying to Make the Love and Marriage Work
Shortly after my conversation with the chaplain, I booked a trip to Vegas for me and my husband to attend the Weekend to Remember Marriage Retreat. The chaplain specifically suggested this retreat. Though I had never heard of it, Weekend to Remember (through Family Life Ministries) is held all over the United States; but it was gonna be in Vegas while my husband was home from Kuwait.
Well let me tell ya…The trip almost didn’t happen. We got into a HUGE blow up just days before our flight, and I was DONE!!!
Let me paint a picture of this for you. This was the summer of 2007. I had just made the decision to give up my military career to follow my husband and work on our marriage; knowing that if I chose to stay in, our paths were gonna lead in different directions. At that time, our marriage (based on our maturity and regard for each other) was not gonna make it.
Somehow still, I was committed to the vow and decision I had made (the institution of marriage) to become this man’s wife; so I was willing to put in the work and sacrifice virtually everything. I had seen good examples of marriage in my family, and wanted to continue that legacy; but I knew it would require sacrifice.
Did I want to do this? Give it all up? NO! But something in me trusted the process. A little.
Can this marriage work?
When my hubby arrived back in the States, I was trying to talk to him about the particulars of my son and I getting our travel orders to accompany him in Kuwait. HE DROPS A BOMBSHELL. He casually informs me that he’s leaving Kuwait and coming back to the States, to Fort Jackson, SC.
Fort Jackson.? You mean my next duty assignment duty assignment… had I not resigned my commission?
I WAS LIVID!!!!
“At what point of my out-processing the military did you not feel the need to share this with me?? So I have given up EVERYTHING…with a plan to follow you…and you’re coming back here.?! HECK! I could have stayed in!!!!”
His selfishness had once again presented itself as his leading character trait. I felt completely betrayed.
Not only did I want to leave him…I was having homicidal ideations. JUST KIDDING…maybe.
But not wanting to lose the money spent in the flights, our accommodations and the retreat itself, we went ahead and decided to go. Might as well go out (divorce) with a bang.
So we get there. If you’ve been to Vegas…this wasn’t your typical Vegas trip. We weren’t even close to the Strip (though we did visit it while we were there). On the other side of Vegas…where the actual residents live was where we were. Oh no! We were nowhere near where people go when they visit Vegas. We were…in CHURCH.
There were hundreds (if not thousands) of couples from everywhere. As we checked in, we realized we were not alone at all…because it was obvious that most of the other couples were about to break up too.
In our small group was us (married for four years); a very young White couple who had been married for 2 weeks; a Filipino couple in their 30s, who had been married four years as well; and to round us off were the parents of Filipino guy. They had been married for over 40 years.
I had no idea how this group experience was gonna go. We were an unlikely group, so it seemed… but in actuality we weren’t. The Filipino couple in their 30s were so much like us it was unreal. They were both in ministry (particularly music ministry) and faced many of the same ministry and marriage challenges we dealt with. Again, it can be difficult to balance ministry and marriage. But who would have thought the connection here would be so great? Goes to prove, there is more that unites us than divides us.
The older Filipino couple…when I tell you they offered all of us so much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. Not to mention the teachings we learned from the individual speakers for the event.
I remember one exercise in particular. It was explained as a writing exercise we were gonna have to share with our spouses later. We were told to make a list of all the things we disliked about our spouse.
This would require extra paper for me.
I COULD NOT WAIT to give this to Leon so he could see IN WRITING why I was divorcing him. I mean the retreat was good…but I was gonna use what I learned for my NEXT husband. LOL!
But there was a caveat. After we finished with our list, we then had to write next to it OUR responses to those behaviors.
Well this isn’t good. If Leon reads this, he’ll have grounds to acknowledge my negative behaviors.
There was still another step.
We were then to take the things on our response list and ask God for forgiveness and help in those areas. Furthermore, we had to write a list of “why we fell in love” and use that list to write a love letter reminding our spouse of those things. Once we finished we were to seal the letter and present it to them on our date that night.
Well…it was a quiet ride back to the room to get dressed for the date. That exercise had caused some self-reflection and personal conviction. I was ashamed…of myself.
That night at dinner, Leon and I shared our love letters. We were both humbled by the others’ reflections; and felt remorse at how we had not regarded our marriage more.
Needless to say…we made up.
The retreat was what we needed to remind us of THE FIRE…the love. The assignment was the therapy to help us recommit to the INSTITUTION…the marriage.
That Weekend to Remember will forever be a weekend we’ll remember.
To this very day, I am eternally grateful for the experience and opportunity. I didn’t know at the time…that in marriage…I had to continue to open myself up to learn MYSELF and my husband. Giving AND giving up are a part of the process. Compassion, grace, and compromise come to mind too. And let me not forget the F-word…FORGIVENESS.
I had out-processed the chaplain…but in our encounter, he had begun a process in me that would continue for years to come.
I’ll definitely never forget the retreat.
Oh yeah! And all those couples…they came there about to break up…but by THE DATE…they too were back in LOVE with MARRIAGE.
Cultivating Love and the Covenant of Marriage
Throughout the years, I’ve learned that though we put love and marriage together in concept, they are very different indeed. It’s sometimes easier to love; to have an affection towards a thing or person. But it’s harder to have a marriage; a committed consensual and contractual union with someone. Partly because when affection and tenderness fade, we want out of the contract.
“This was not what I was expecting, so I’m out.”
But how much of what life brings is what we expect? So what do you do? Do you bail on yourself? Typically, we don’t have that option. We figure it out…regroup…dig deeper. So if that’s needed in the relationship with yourself, the same is needed in the marriage relationship.
Leon and I haven’t actually made it back to another Weekend to Remember; but we recall and refer to our experience often, and we suggest it to other couples as well. Actually, Leon still has our recommitment certificate from the retreat framed and displayed in his office at our home. From time to time when we’re either having sentimental moments or difficulties in our relationship, we refer to the Oneness Covenant (as it’s called).
When we returned home this weekend, I took a look back at the Oneness Covenant my husband and I signed back in July 2007…and I cried. It reads,
Be Intentional about Remembering
So, this particular weekend had been our very own “weekend to remember.” One planned intentionally to rekindle the fire of the relationship and to purposefully recommit to the union of our marriage. But it’s not about actually remembering the weekend, per se. It’s about remembering the reason you have loved and married.
No, not all marriages work, for a number of reasons. But if you want to maintain a good relationship with your spouse or you want to develop a better one; OR…maybe you’re not married yet, but one day hope to become married…consider putting things into practice.
5 Tips of Consider in Love and Marriage
- RETREAT – Take time for just you and your spouse. Forsaking all others (people, jobs, hobbies). Be purposeful about getting alone to focus on the commitment that was made.
- SEEK COUNSEL – Be intentional about putting in the work for the betterment of the relationship. If you wanted to get promoted on your job or get a degree, you’d know you’d have to put in work and even get tutoring or additional training if it would help. Marriage is no different. Put in the work. Get help if you need it.
- CONTINUE TO DATE – Dating keeps the relationship interesting. So either plan something that’s unique to your love story; OR do something completely out of the box and try something different. But you want to continue to stimulate your passion for each other; something that rouses your intellect, or something that adds mystery or adventure. Keep the newness coming.
- RENEW YOUR
LEASELOVE- Recommit to and re-evaluate your relationship regularly. Just like you would renew any other contracts or leases, do the same for your marriage. Has anything changed that will affect the terms and conditions? Are there upgrades that have been made, or accommodations that should be considered? Don’t just go along silently and not address changes that are affecting the quality of the relationship. What are the future expectations?
- LEAVE A LEGACY – The marriage relationship should be a reflection to others of God’s love towards us, starting with our children. Presentation and representation are everything. What do others see when they see your relationship? What do others hear when you talk about your relationship? How you walk this out is not just about you. It’s about those who will follow you. How will others interpret love based on your marriage’s example?
CONTINUE TO INVEST & LEARN
What you’ve already invested is valuable and can yield a great return. The seeds you have planted can bring a harvest of good fruit. It is possible to produce the love in your marriage.
As I stated from the beginning…my husband and I have had our moments. We have both invested a lot; and we had some things to learn too. Along this journey, we’ve learned that though there is a distinct difference between LOVE (an affection towards a thing or person) and MARRIAGE (a committed consensual and contractual union with someone); they can coexist as long as there is willingness by both parties (husband AND wife) to commit to them both, by putting in the work with intentionality. It won’t be perfect…but it will be worth it.
Our weekend in Myrtle Beach was another weekend for us to remember our commitment to each other and… the Love for our Marriage.
Live, Laugh, LOVE ~Dawn~
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I hope this blog has brought some value to you. If it has, COMMENT and tell me about your LOVE and MARRIAGE. How’s it going? If you struggle, what do you find most difficult?
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